We’re blowing it/blew it because Generation X, we post-Baby Boomers, have hit middle age and thus are becoming increasingly undesirable and unhireable, except possibly by those corporations hoping to tap into our vast resources of pop culture trivia, of which we are indeed the Greatest Generation.
With the Boomers clinging to power and the Millennials nipping at our irrelevant heels, demographically we’re middle management. Things have not necessarily turned out as we had hoped, and we’re running out of time and muscle tone.
It’s not a bad life, by any means. We’re healthier and better balanced than any previous generation. Our menfolk cook and clean and the womenfolk hunt and gather and no one bats an eye. We grew up in analog and easily embraced the digital, learning to appreciate the past while deftly navigating our Netflix account. Our hair is no longer ridiculous but still pretty darned important. And we’ve mostly gotten over ourselves. In short, we’ve become mature, respectable, generally happy citizens.
But like the slackers they claimed we were, we never quite reached our potential. We are solid B students, voted Most Likely to be Likeable.
The tragedy of this after-school special is that we could have done it all. We had the affluence and the know-how. Growing up in the shadow of the sixties, we were close enough to co-opt the culture but distant enough to make sense of it. For example, while we were a bit jealous of all that free love, we looked upon the wreckage and said, “That’s messed up. Oh, and thanks for all the AIDS.”
And while we cringed under the everyday threat of nuclear annihilation (which turned out to be less scarring than predicted), we saw straight through the political propaganda. Gen X kids were no patsies. Yet we numbly succumbed to the superficial, distracting ourselves for hours and hours over setting our screen-savers and wondering what exactly was the deal with Prince’s moustache; did he purposely grow it that filmy or was that the best he could do?
And there’s the problem. Generation X has never taken much seriously. We’re not passionate about the environment, just very, very concerned. We’re aware of politics but not political. We like the idea of getting involved but not the actual involvement.
When it comes to the world’s problems, some of which we inherited, some of which we caused (yeah, about that plastic in the ocean…), it’s as though Gen X took one of those Chinese puzzles and threw it aside, saying to the next generation, “I can’t figure the damn thing out. You try.”
Sorry about that, next generation, but it was, like, totally hard.
It’s easy to look at ourselves and feel disappointed, and if ever a generation was good at looking at themselves, it’s Gen X.
Still, we’re only halfway through. Don’t count us out yet.
For starters, we’re probably the first generation to really get along with our kids. This is because the culture in the last 25 years has hardly evolved, certainly nothing like the sweeping changes of the 40 years prior. Sure, there’s the digital age, but Gen X hopped on that wave from the Atari start. As a result, we relate better, and our children are well adjusted and happier as a result, so well-adjusted, in fact, that they may be capable of achieiving what we didn’t. Hopefully, they won’t be fried by the disastrous climate mess we’ve left them. Again, sorry about that. But hey, remember that constant threat of nuclear doom? You get used to it.
Secondly, we’re entering the age when we will naturally fill political roles. Having confirmed from the sidelines that revolution doesn’t work, here’s where all that dispassionate awareness comes in, that B-average general knowledge, that ability to be open without being suckered. Generation X doesn’t do revolution. We do reconciliation. We are kings and queens of compromise. Culturally, this is advanced post-testosterone thinking.
Canada has its first Gen X prime minister, and he’s the whole Gen X package: swinging parents, the product of divorce, well educated, well rounded, nerdy, friendly, feminist, and let’s not forget the hair. Still important the hair. With the first rule of Gen X being “Be cool,” Justin Trudeau appears to have decided to run the country in accordance to the second rule, namely, “Be decent to people.”
This is really the only conviction we have, wrought from too many viewings of The Breakfast Club, but it works. Be decent to people. That’s it. See both sides, have empathy, work things out, share, don’t take all the doughnuts, recognize that some people actually like Adam Sandler.
After the black-and-white years of “I Would Eat a Baby” Boomer Stephen Harper, is this our time? Will Trudeau demonstrate that the grey way is finally how Gen X fulfills its potential? It’s hard to say.
P.S. My generation and Canada take no responsibility for Ted Cruz.